A year of incredible travel for me and my family was cut short abrubptly in August when my vision became blurry and doubled, and I began feeling a sharp pain in my head in Minot, North Dakota, nearly 1000 miles away from any family support. Abby and the kids drove me to the hospital and dropped me off in the middle of the night, where I immediately had an MRI and they found a growth about the size of an acorn on my brain. The only local neurosurgeon just happened to be in the ER, having just brought his sick daughter in to be seen. He said it needed to be removed, whatever it was, immediately. I was admitted to the hospital and surgery was scheduled.
It turned out I an abscess from an infection — a bacteria called nocardia that would have us stuck in North Dakota for ten weeks as Abby patiently administered IV antibiotics to me. The IV expiried two hours after it was mixed by the pharmacist, so we couldn’t leave town, and Abby had to drive to the hospital three times a day from the campground to pick it up. Her schedule was like this:
6:30 AM: Drive to hospital
7:00 AM: Start IV
8:00 AM: End IV
2:30 PM: Drive to hospital
3:00 PM: Start IV
4:30 PM: End IV
10:30 PM: Drive to hospital
11:00 PM: Start IV
12:30 PM: End IV
If that wasn’t enough, at some point I was given another IV drug that I had to take 4 more times a day. It was easier to administer, but still required Abby’s help. By the end of it all, I had another surgery to put my skull back together, which was unsuccessful. I’ll have to try again in a few months.
Most of our followers already know all this stuff, and I don’t need to rehash it, but I’m left here on New Year’s Eve reflecting on how we got through it all. Even though we were so far from anyone we knew, we never felt alone because we were lifted up by so many people.
On day 1, fellow RVers, who we’ve grown to know and love, took our kids to a zoo so Abby could be with me. Then five family members and two close friends made a 900+ mile or more journey on very short notice to be there for me and for Abby and the boys for those first few days I was in the hospital. Something I didn’t think possible.
My care began with the wonderful people at Trinity hospital in Minot. We’ve had family treated and babies born at some of the top hospitals in the country, but I’ve never had better care than I did at Trinity. My neurosurgeon Dr. Frimpong and his Nurse Practicioners Ashley and Durand, Dr. Nwaigwe (my infectious disease doctor) and the dozens of nurses literally saved my life. The Trinity pharmacists who made my medicine daily, befriended Abby, and were their to solve every problem, were some of the finest medical professionals we’ve ever encountered. The Minot community rallied around us, too. The kids spend countless hours in the Library, people invited us to visit their farms, or to go out for pizza with them.
Our friends, family, and followers have lifted our hearts forever with their kind gifts, thoughts, and love. Our dear friends from high school and college were some of the most supportive people, folks I haven’t seen in 15 to 20 years. Our beloved Chicago theater community and our social media followers and podcast listeners banded together to keep us going. One of our listeners created a GoFundMe, that frankly, I’m is very difficult for me to even look at. The kind outpouring of support will stay with me forever.
After about a month, my eyesight improved to nearly normal. The infection was erradicated, and I began to heal. I had to wear a helmet everywhere. Now I wear it many places, and a hard-had ballcap at other times. Hopefully by next summer, I’ll have a metal plate in my head.
So, here at the end of this year, this decade, I’m thankful for community. Our lifestyle that has us moving constantly, surprisingly is just as full of family, friends, and special people as our stationary life was, just in a different way. Clearly community can be found wherever you go. I don’t know how people get through things like this without the villiage to uplift them, I can only imagine how hard it must be. I will be eternally grateful for everyone who touched our lives in any way this year, and if I haven’t been able to thank you personally, know I will try my hardest to pay it forward.
Best wishes, and Happy New Year.